In the wake of a mayoral veto budget, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda isnt interested in pointing fingers.
In the wake of a mayoral veto budget, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda "isn't interested in pointing fingers." Screenshot of the Seattle Channel

The Seattle City Council has returned from its two-week summer recess. Back on August 21, the Friday before the recess started, Mayor Jenny Durkan vetoed the rebalanced 2020 budget, which the council passed unanimously after over two months of meetings and debate.

With the across-the-board budget veto, Durkan threw out $3.5 million in cuts to the Seattle Police Department and $14 million for community programs. She left the city with no plan to fill the nearly $400 million budget shortfall that the proposed rebalanced package addressed.

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Durkan's big issue—the one that she seems immovable on—is police funding. Though the mayor used spiking gun violence numbers to contextualize her veto, Councilmember and Budget Committee Chair Teresa Mosqueda pointed out Tuesday morning that the council allocated $4 million in the vetoed budget to address gun control.

Durkan characterized the budget debates throughout the summer as lacking collaboration between her office, now-resigned SPD Chief Carmen Best, and the council. During her budget veto announcement, Durkan urged "new collaboration" on a new budget plan. The council has 30 days to act on, sustain, or overturn the veto. It's unclear yet what they'll do.

Councilmember Tammy Morales said she was concerned about the mayor "using her veto so liberally." Durkan vetoed two bills this summer: the budget proposal and a spending plan for the new JumpStart Seattle high-earner payroll tax. Durkan also refused to sign the council's bill banning SPD's preferred "less-lethal" crowd control weapons, which was later blocked by a federal judge at the urging of the Department of Justice, and also the actual JumpStart Seattle tax bill.

"In my mind," Morales said, "this frequent use of the veto represents a really insidious pattern that the winner takes all in a democracy and that power can only be distributed by force."

According to the Seattle Times, Durkan used five vetoes so far in her mayorship. That's more than any of the past four mayors.

"The power of the veto is to be used sparingly so it respects community and it respects representative democracy," Morales said.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant said that the council should overturn the veto. They have a veto-proof majority, after all, as it takes a two-thirds vote to override a veto. Sawant said Durkan's executive decisions position her against "ordinary people" and for "big business."

Mosqueda used her time during the briefing to describe the months-long process she and the council went through to create the first rebalanced budget proposal. She said they heard from hundreds of community organizations and coalitions. Mosqueda said she was "disheartened" that Durkan "discarded" the decisions borne out of these conversations. Now more than ever the council will need to act urgently.

While Mosqueda said Durkan "has offered no plan" and is "disparaging the work that’s been done." Mosqueda believes a "my way or the highway approach" won't work. The veto was a "my way or the highway approach," Mosqueda confirmed to The Stranger so unless there's some flexibility from Durkan, it's unclear what will change in these new conversations.

"The art of the legislative branch is we compromised to only 1% budget cut," Mosqueda said, "and this is the response we received." Mosqueda said she is all for defending the work the council did with the budget and she would vote to override the veto if the council has the numbers.

Council President Lorena Gonzalez, who was "disappointed" about the veto back in August, and who said a veto override wouldn't be productive, mentioned on Tuesday that her office had "frequent communication" with the mayor's office throughout the council's recess. The two parties have yet to reach an "agreement" on how to "bridge the obvious gaps in the council's and mayor's visions for how to redefine and reconsider public safety," Gonzalez said.

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In other words, nothing has changed.

Something will have to give in order for Seattle to address the 2020 budget deficit. If Durkan isn't budging, what happens then? The council won't have an official meeting on the veto until after September 21, Gonzalez said. The last day to act on the veto is September 24.

Correction: A previous version of this story said that Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda was not firm in whether she would support a veto.

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